London Interdisciplinary School ©2019

Making Palm Oil Supply Chains Transparent

300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour to satisfy the growing demand for palm oil. It is one of the worst sources of greenhouse gases and a major habitat destroyer. Palm oil typically changes hands at least three times before reaching manufacturers.

Design a tool which enables food companies to trace their orders and ensure the integrity of their supply chain.

01. Functional Programming

Frontier technology

In computer science, functional programming style that treats computation as the evaluation of mathematical functions and avoids changing-state and mutable data. Read more

Although not strictly necessary for working with blockchain, functional programming offers some advantages including scalability, stability and fault tolerance when paired with the distributed ledger and is definitely something worth understanding and considering.

02. Blockchain

Frontier technology

A blockchain, is a growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree). Read more

A new architecture allowing for transparent, auditable and shared data. Perfect to allow multiple companies to track the provenance and authenticity of materials.

03. User Centered Design

Creativity and Ideation

User-centered design can be characterized as a multi-stage problem-solving process that not only requires designers to analyze and envision the way users are likely to consume a product, but also to validate their assumptions with regard to the user behavior in real world tests. Read more

It’s not enough to design something but to achieve real impact in the world you need to make sure people use it. With a tool which inherently only works if many people across the entire supply chain use the tool, it’s essential that the design is thought through for ever user group and stakeholder.

04. User Experience

Creativity and Ideation

User experience design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and desirability provided in the interaction with a product. Read more

Like User Centered Design, with a tool that relies not only people using the tool, but using the tool correctly, it’s essential that the design is as easy and simple to use for those producing the palm oil in developing countries as those at the headquarters in developed nations.

05. Supply Chains

Complex systems

Supply Chain Management encompasses the planning and management of all activities involved in sourcing and procurement, conversion, and all logistics management activities. Importantly, it also includes coordination and collaboration with channel partners, which can be suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, and customers. Read more

A supply chain is a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product from supplier to customer.

06. Systems Architecture

Complex systems

A system architecture or systems architecture is the conceptual model that defines the structure, behavior, and more views of a system. An architecture description is a formal description and representation of a system, organized in a way that supports reasoning about the structures and behaviors of the system.

Blockchain applications use a radically different systems architecture to typical applications, knowing the difference and how to apply principles across both benefits the design of both, no matter what role you play on the design team.

07. KPIs

Strategy and Judgement

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a type of performance measurement. KPIs evaluate the success of an organization or of a particular activity (such as projects, programs, products and other initiatives) in which it engages. Read more

To know if what you’ve built is successful, first requires you to know how you want to be successful and what are the best ways to measure that. The science of this is bundled into the format known as KPIs.

08. Prioritisation

Productivity and performance

There are many methods for how to prioritise. Knowing which method to prioritise when is as important as knowing the methods themselves. Read more

When building any product (or doing anything) effective prioritisation is crucial. However, when doing so in a team it becomes even harder. Being explicit about how you define your goals and how to prioritise them is a hard skill.

09. Leadership Techniques

Collaboration and communication

When discussing business leadership, a distinction is often made between good management and good leadership. Leadership comes in many shapes and sizes, and often from entirely unexpected quarters. Read more

There are many forms of leadership and every person in a team should lead in some capacity. Being an effective leader makes you both better at leading and following.

10. Brainstorming Techniques

Collaboration and communication

Brainstorming is a group creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. Read more

Many people think brainstorming is standing in front of a whiteboard while working with a group. Organisational psychology has discovered the best way to brainstorm and is very much a skill which can and should be learnt.

More real-world problems